Brain Awareness Week gives us the opportunity to dispel brain development myths.
Learn about and share the truth.
Myth: A Child is "spoiled" from responding to their cries and meeting their needs.
Truth: Meeting a child's needs is the opposite of spoiling. Through repeatedly and consistently meeting a baby's physical and emotional needs, the baby is calmed and feels safe. Over time the baby begins to use these positive experiences and learns about how to regulate some of their own emotions. Healthy emotional development and the basis for relationships later in life occurs through having the cycle of needs expressed and met throughout the first year.
Myth: Infants and Toddlers should be given skim milk to avoid obesity.
Truth: Nature provides all that the brain needs through breast milk. A mother's milk (if she has a healthy diet) includes DHA which is essential to optimal cognitive and visual function. It is important when using infant formula to ensure it is fortified with DHA. When a toddler is transitioned to cow's milk, whole milk is best. While cow's milk does not have DHA the brain still benefits most from the essential "good" fats that milk provides.
Myth: Children's brain development is enhanced by watching a DVD or educational television program.
Truth: Children's brains develop connections through interaction with people and real objects. Using several senses and exploring and having fun interaction with others provides experiences in the way the brain learns best. Sitting and watching a program or DVD is not an interactive activity. Through just watching the brain is missing out on real learning.
Myth: Taking my child to many classes and scheduled activities will make my child smarter.
Truth: While the brain does like to be stimulated and does not like boredom a child does not need or benefit from too many classes. The brain needs unstructured time to explore, to try new things, imagine, build, run freely, and just play. In fact creativity comes from a relaxed state. When children are scheduled and have too much structured time, they miss the chance to learn skills through self directed activities.
Myth: My child will learn best if I use flash cards and provide electronic toys.
Truth: Often the term brain development has become thought to mean pushing young children to learn more at earlier ages. Brain development is actually about the physical growth of the brain. Using flash cards or electronic types of toys and games is not the optimal way of supporting this growth. Hands-on interaction with real objects provides the brain with much more real information and ideal learning experiences. When children are directed to simply find a "right" answer this removes the wonderful benefits of discovery.
Providing a large box and many other items around a home can provide much more learning than many of the expensive "educational" toys.